Tuesday, 31 January 2012 06:46

Seperate Hardware Makes A Return; Well Sort Of...

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board07Back in the mid-90s when the DIY computer industry was just breaking into full swing we saw a ton of great products hit the market almost weekly. It was a very cool time to be in the business; the problem was that the technology was so new that in many cases the early hardware was not only WAY overpriced, but also buggy to use. I can vividly remember buying a DVD-ROM for the first time and trying to play a move on my desktop. It was an old AMD K62-333 with a whopping 512MB of RAM. The movie was so bad that it was almost laughable. The K62 just could not process all of the video information to keep the movie going with an acceptable frame rate.

About a month later Creative Labs came out with the answer to my prayers in the form of two spate but very important products. One was the PCI Sound Blaster Live Platinum audio card the other was a separate DVD decoder card that worked directly with the SB Live Platinum. These two combined with a Cambridge Audio Works 5.1 surround sound system was simply amazing. I ended up building my first HTPC using these three items (and an upgraded CPU as well).

Why the quick trip down PC memory lane? Well the other day I was looking at the internal diagram of both Intel’s and AMD’s CPUs and noticed something. Although we are seeing a huge push towards integration we are also seeing a return to separate components; not in the traditional way with multiple add-in cards, but with built-in dedicated hardware to process things like HD Video content and even HD audio. Both Intel and AMD even have semi dedicated hardware for encryption and decryption; these are not just for file protection eithe, but can help with Bluray decryption as well.

It seems that after years of the thought process of “do it in software” companies are realizing that software does not always do the job. Sometimes you just need that extra little push that a dedicated piece of hardware gives you. Even motherboard manufacturers are getting in on this.

Both Asus and Gigabyte are offering the integrated equivalent of separate audio on their motherboards. Gigabyte has their Sound Blaster X-Fi and Asus will is segmenting off their audio processors and dropping in the extra hardware to take their audio from a simple CODEC to a complete unit.

The PC market is going to get very interesting over the course of the next few years as we see the move to integrated but separate grow in almost every hardware vertical. The issue now will be how the software developers will deal with this. Will they work with the changes and re-code their applications, or will they stick with the less expensive yet more inefficient code they have now? If the application developers are anything like game companies, we already know the answer to that…

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Read 1878 times Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2012 06:58

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